Most airports are the same.
The Oakland, California, (OAK) airport has been very yucky each of the three times I've used it in 2006. I wrote this while I waited. This is my personal experience. Hopefully yours, and mine, will be better in the future.
It's no more of a hassle from a purely photographic standpoint than other airport. The needless security hassles are the same, although there is a sign at the end of the poorly-thought-out x-ray line telling you to move on before you get your clothes back on.
Pilot friends and locals point out that the weather and logistics are better at Oakland than SFO, so it has better on-time performance. Locals also point out that since they aren't renting cars that OAK is quite handy.
Oakland airport's comfort defects are universally annoying to everyone. I might have made more photos, but obviously we were busy hustling in and out. The shots you see are just obvious snapshots as we moved along.
Oakland is about 12 miles southeast of San Francisco.
I flew in and out on Southwest Airlines on Saturday and Monday, March 25th and 27th, 2006.
We went to visit my nieces and nephews.
We got off our plane and walked into what seemed to be the noisy streets of the third world. I expect a certain standard when I arrive in an airport. Oakland didn't meet that. It felt like the airport was a homeless shelter.
Here's our view of an open porta-potty while waiting for our outbound flight.
It's nasty. There aren't enough seats in the terminals. There were people crowed all over the place. They had to sit on the floors.
Oakland airport was worse than the airports I've used in Russia and Guatemala. The airports there are fine and uncrowded. I look forward to visiting Russia and Guatemala again, but not Oakland's airport.
The hoards of sad people sitting on the floor of the Oakland airport terminal were getting in the way of people trying to walk. We had to watch our steps, just like walking through a ghetto market.
Cold and Windy
The yellow "Caution" streamer in the middle of the ceiling was blowing like mad! Note big crooked sign hanging from ceiling.
I kid you not: I'm sitting in a continuous breeze of 50 degree wind inside my terminal. For some reason this nasty under-construction terminal has some gaping hole in it.
We tried moving. It didn't help. It's rainy and windy outside, and that same wind is blowing through the terminal where we're sitting.
We moved to a corner by the gate and it's not quite as bad.
Lighting at the Oakland airport.
It's dark and dreary. What little light there is is the worst and most tiring mercury vapor (blue) kind.
The only source of light was the single bulb next to the "B" sign. It was obnoxious, however the great lack of flare and ghosts of my 18 - 200 VR don't show you how nasty it really was.
The airport has a sign admitting this. It brushes it off as "conserving energy." Having appropriate lighting isn't wasting energy. Not having enough light isn't conserving energy: it's just cheap.
My wife and I just moved to a different seat. Now we have a single bare mercury bulb shining into our faces, and no light behind us to let us read while we wait on the "A" line for Southwest.
I'm not sure how the airport is funded. I suspect the city of Oakland has always had hard times. It's sad that those of us just traveling through get to share it.
Gross, Dirty and Worn
Smegma dripping down the windows at Oakland Airports' Gate 23.
I need to take a shower or two after passing through a place like this.
I'm not a good enough photographer to show just how dirty everything is. The grossness is in the details.
No Rental Cars at the Airport
There aren't any rental cars at Oakland airport.
We all have to take a nasty pooled bus just to get to any of the rental car locations. This takes everyone out of the airport to another building housing all the car rentals. The bus isn't operated by a car rental company. The bus is a generic shuttle with a disinterested driver who doesn't care. He doesn't get out of his seat or help you with your bags or even offer a smile. He won't stand up at the end of the ride to collect tips. Welcome to Oakland!
Oakland airport isn't right. I'm a paying customer. I don't deserve being treated like I'm on public assistance. Other airports have off-campus rental cars, however they are served by attentive shuttle service.
Baggage Claim in Another Terminal
We went to Baggage Claim. We looked around, and the carousel flashed "Southwest Baggage Claim in Terminal 2."
We had to walk out in the rain and find terminal 2 to get our bags.
Defective, Stuck PA System
The PA system got stuck. It repeated a segment of an audio clip over and over and over. Click here to listen.
It reminded me of an old joke about people who get on a plane. They hear a recorded announcement: "Welcome to XYZ Airlines. You are being treated to the latest innovation in modern flight: a completely automated aircraft controlled completely by a computer. There is no human crew on board. Rest assured, nothing can go wrong... can go wrong... can go wrong... can go wrong..."
Welcome to Oakland!
I love Southwest Airlines. They are the best public airline for getting to photo locations around the Western and Southwestern United States. Their website makes reservations a breeze. Their rates are the best. One of the ways they keep their fares so cheap is that they don't pay bribes to travel websites, so you won't see them listed at sites like Travelocity and Orbitz. You have to know to go to the Southwest website, at which you'll probably find a direct flight between, say San Diego and Albuquerque, for half the price of a larger airline which might have to connect to Albuquerque by way of Dallas.
Take the hint: for flying in the Southwest USA try Southwest.com.
Please don't take the fact that I show Southwest in my photos as any dig on Southwest. It's not their fault I was dumb enough to fly them to Oakland!
I would expect some of this if it was in the middle of a remodel, renovation or upgrade.
I saw no signs apologizing for any temporary inconvenience or any mention of renovations, so I presume this construction-site chic is a daily occurrence.
I popped through again in June, 2006. Same story, but now for summer they had added fans to help cool the terminal. I was lucky - it wasn't that hot out. I'm glad I didn't come through on a warm day.
Notice the big fan in the middle. There was no air conditioning as far as I could feel.
These were my experiences on my three recent visits. I hope your experience, and my next, is more pleasant.